I know there have been many articles written about the subject of “listening” in leadership, but, today I would like to explore the topic some more.
How interesting it is that we use the title “Leadership Voices”. One may suggest that when using this title that someone is actually reading, or “listening” to the messages contained in our material. Hopefully that is the case.
Personally, I have found when communicating with many who are in leadership positions they may listen to what is being said, but may not HEAR what is being said. Our society has arrived at an age when we feel every word spoken should be interpreted, and while “listening” we are actively trying to interrupt what is said. I feel this is a grave mistake for leaders!
These comments are not intended to diminish the impact a conversation has when vision casting, but rather I hope to help us exercise caution in our interactions with those we lead. Essentially the true intent of our conversations with whom we lead should be nothing less than building a stronger relationship that allows us as leaders to develop the true potential of those we lead.
Think for a moment about how you would want to be listened to. Do you want to be heard?
What characteristics of listening do you exhibit that would make anyone want to follow you?
Years ago Frank Leahy was coach at Notre Dame. Disgusted in practice one day he called the team together and laid down the law: “look, lads, I’m convinced that before we can make any further progress, we must go back to the fundamentals.” He reached over and picked up a ball. “Now this,” he said holding it up, “is a football. It …” At this point a tackle interrupted: “Please coach, not so fast.”
If your practices of listening seem to be dragging your leadership experiences south, it may be good advice to consider the foundational fundamentals of listening. Apply the brakes gently here and don’t be so fast at listening that you don’t hear what is said. Minimize external distractions, maintain eye contact, and focus on WHAT is being said. It is always helpful to check the rearview mirror a time or two to see what you missed or what may be creeping up on you.
Develop your listening skills. Don’t panic when there is silence. Give that person space and time to formulate their thoughts. These characteristics are important not only in the workplace but at home as well.
From our training, many of us know Proverbs 22:6, “train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” At home or at work, are we teaching them the skills to be an “active listener”? The old saying “we hear more with our ears open and our mouths closed”, could never be more accurate.
Here are a few important items I believe every effective leader may want to throw in the toolbox and embrace this New Year.
What is your method of communicating?
Do you use the hammer, or do you use the stethoscope?
From a mechanics standpoint, I have found more problems “listening” with a stethoscope than I ever found using a hammer. Sure, after the damage is done, I have used the hammer to assist in the repair of the problem. Yes, if a hammer is your last tool in the box, it will become necessary to use it.
Authenticity. I have seen and been a part of several business relationships that fell apart because those in leadership positions were NOT authentic! The importance of authenticity can not be emphasized enough. If you are not who and what you say you are, then you are setting yourself up for one of the biggest disappointments of your life, while discouraging those you lead!
Commitment. As leaders this is the greatest trait to have. I have seen both in the corporate world and the sports world that when the leadership loses commitment they lose the team. We do not loose commitment overnight! Just as traveling down the best highways, we have to be cautious of the signs (being disgruntled, cynicism, and slacker) to ensure we are not responsible for the crash of our team. A commitment to “commitment” is the strongest bond found to maintain a healthy team.
Hopefully, our goal is to demonstrate optimum listening skills that help us make a smoother shift from the daily (discourse) grind of yesteryear. It’s aim is to place us in the running for the greatest personal performance that leading thoroughbreds enjoy. If you want a high performance team that has great forward bite (good traction), smooth acceleration, great ride, built for the long haul, and easy on the eyes…check the engine that keeps them going…frequently!
Have a very blessed New Year!